HC Deb 02 May 1957 vol 569 cc344-5
10. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what documents are still in his possession relative to the trial of Sir Roger Casement; and if he will now agree to hand over all such documents to the National Library of Ireland, in Dublin.

Mr. R. A. Butler

Certain confidential documents are among the papers of my Department but, like my predecessors, I am not prepared to disclose their nature. The answer to the second part of the Question is "No, Sir."

Mr. Hughes

Could the Prime Minister [Laughter.]—my subconscious mind is working again. Could the Home Secretary tell us whether this collection of documents includes an alleged diary which is reported to have been found on the possession of Sir Roger Casement? Could he explain why a certain limited number of people seem to have been given, by the Home Office, access to these documents? Does he not think it would be wise and generous now to hand these documents over to the Irish people, who seem to think that they are slightly interested in this controversy?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. I have considered this matter, but I am not prepared to disclose the nature of these documents, nor to hand them over to the National Library of Ireland.

Mr. Hyde

Can my right hon. Friend say by what right the diaries which were seized with Casement's other effects before his arrest, but not used in evidence at his trial, are retained by my right hon. Friend's Department? Should they not be handed over to Casement's next-of-kin in accordance with the provisions of the Forfeiture Act, 1870, which states quite clearly that any effects of a person executed for high treason and not used at his trial should be restored to his family?

Mr. Butler

I have not by me this afternoon the Forfeiture Act to which my hon. Friend has referred, but I will certainly examine it in the light of the question which he has asked. For the time being, pending my examination of the Act to which he has drawn my attention, I cannot go further than my Answer today.

Mr. Anthony Greenwood

May we deduce from the fact that the right hon. Gentleman will not make these documents available that he is holding them in his custody until a proper inquiry into the circumstances of the Casement case has been held?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. I am simply simply following the tradition followed by my predecessors in holding documents of this sort.

Mr. Hughes

On a point of order. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.